Cochrane Summaries

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Acupuncture for depression

Smith CA, Hay PPJ, MacPherson H
Published Online: 
20 January 2010

Depression is widely experienced in our communities. In clinical depression, people report a lack of interest in life and activities which they otherwise normally enjoy. This can be accompanied by other symptoms including weight loss, over-eating, feelings of uselessness, sleep disturbance, self neglect and social withdrawal, insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much), loss of energy, low self esteem and poor concentration.

Acupuncture has a long history of use in China and Japan. Traditional Chinese medicine theory describes a state of health maintained by a balance of energy in the body. Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into different parts of the body to correct the imbalance of energy in the body. There are a range of styles of acupuncture from traditional/classical acupuncture, auricular acupuncture, trigger point acupuncture, and single point acupuncture. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Classical Acupuncture are based on theoretical concepts of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements and explain disease and physiological function. A westernised medical application of acupuncture involves the use of acupuncture using trigger points, segmental points and commonly used formula points. Medical acupuncture may involve the application of acupuncture based on the principles of neurophysiology and anatomy, rather than TCM principles and philosophy. Auricular therapy involves the use of the ear to make a diagnosis and subsequent needling to points on the ear.

There are studies indicating a preference for treatment with self-help and complementary therapies for depression. Thirty trials, and 2812 participants were included in the review and meta-analysis, however there was insufficient evidence that acupuncture can assist with the management of depression.